The Powerless Power of Faith

Archbishop Amel Shamon Nona of Mosul, Iraq, whose predecessor was assassinated and so many of whose faithful have been murdered or have fled, has written a letter to Christians in the West. He says:

From the moment when we are waiting for death, under threat from someone who may shoot us at any time, we need to know how to live well. The greatest challenge in facing death because of our faith is to continue to know this faith in such a way as to live it constantly and fully — even in that very brief moment that separates us from death.

My goal in all this is to reinforce the fact that the Christian faith is not an abstract, rational theory, remote from actual, everyday life but a means of discovering its deepest meaning, its highest expression as revealed by the Incarnation. When the individual discovers this possibility, he or she will be willing to endure absolutely anything and will do everything to safeguard this discovery — even if this means having to die in its cause.

Many people living in freedom from persecution, in countries without problems like ours, ask me what they can do for us, how they can help us in our situation. First of all, anyone who wants to do something for us should make an effort to live out his or her own faith in a more profound manner, embracing the life of faith in daily practice. For us the greatest gift is to know that our situation is helping others to live out their own faith with greater strength, joy, and fidelity.

John Allen's new book, The Global War on Christians, is must reading to appreciate the extent and virulence of the attacks. And I also strongly recommend the recent Erasmus Lecture delivered by the former Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, Lord Jonathan Sacks. It may be viewed here.

Sacks speaks insightfully of "creative minorities" in history, taking issue with the understanding promoted by Arnold Toynbee in his twelve volume Study of History, and contrasting a Jewish and Hellenistic understanding of "creative minority."

But at the 43 minute mark of his  lecture, Sacks speaks movingly of Christians today being "under attack," calling it "the crime against humanity of our time." He finds the attacks to be "deliberate, brutal, and systematic," and says that he is "appalled that the world is silent."

Robert P. Imbelli, a long-time Commonweal contributor, is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York. A book of essays in his honor, The Center Is Jesus Christ Himself, edited by Andrew Meszaros, was published this year by The Catholic University of America Press.

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